Thursday, 30 August 2012

Ibstock Country Fair

Concentrating Casper
Photography by Stephen Colson

Misbehaving Casper!
Photography by Laura Cooper

Saturday before last we all set off down the M1 again, this time headed for Leicestershire and Ibstock Country Fair.  It was a lovely easy drive, and we were there before we knew it - then we had to get on to the site.  This proved slightly difficult as we missed the very small track down to the field, so had to go and turn around.  Then we realised the lane we were on was a dead end, so had to turn around in the tiniest of gate holes - good job the lorry has a good lock on it!

Having got on to site and set up we went to look at the arena properly.  Stuart (the organiser) had warned us it wasn't that flat - and he wasn't wrong!  We tried to pick the best bit out to mark the circle on, but it was still pretty uneven.  Not to worry, I know Tinker can cope with difficult arenas and Casper has to learn at some point.  At least it was dry so that made us very happy!

We were actually very lucky with the weather.  The sky was blazing pink when the sun was setting so we thought it would be a good day on Sunday, and it was!  The sun shone all day which was lovely, and very welcome.  In the morning we had a practise with Casper in the arena.  He was very good, as he had been at our previous show, the Cheshire Game and Angling Fair, so we had high hopes for his show.  As we weren't due on until 2pm we had quite a bit of time to look around the show and see what was there.  There was loads of different things, including parrots on tricycles, giant vegetables, sleeping pigs, noisy goats, and some gorgeous baby guinea pigs - I am definitely going to have another pair one day, they are such lovely little animals.  There was one who looked like he'd been electrified - all his coat was frizzy and standing up on end!

There was also lurcher racing, and the track was right next to us - those dogs can shift!  Have a look at this little video to see how fast they go:

Before long it was time for Casper's show.  As the lurcher racing had finished I'd been using the track to warm Casper up.  Although I usually lunge him before a show, the track wasn't quite wide enough, so I rode him around as much as I could until I felt we'd done enough.  He seemed very calm and I was enjoying working him in the sunshine.  However, appearances can be deceptive, and as soon as we got into the arena I realised it was not going to be an easy show!  From the word go Casper was difficult - even when I was doing my introduction he was charging around the circle of his own volition, bucking and farting as he went!  Vaulting on him was very hard, although he did manage to balance himself in the arena, so that was one good thing!  He did a good dance, until we got to the chasing and rearing.  He managed the first couple well, but on the third he reverted to his old bad habit of turning round and charging off on his own - once again bucking and farting!  The little bugger did two full laps of the arena flat out, and there was absolutely nothing either myself or Helen could do besides watch him.  All I could do was talk on the mic, saying 'well Ladies and Gentlemen, this IS NOT in the script, but Casper seems to be having a jolly good time here at Ibstock Country Fair - so I hope you are too!'  Luckily Casper then ran into the circle, at which point Helen shut the gate - the beast was trapped!!  We then carried on the show as if nothing had gone wrong, butter wouldn't melt in Casper's mouth!  I have learnt my lesson the hard way: Casper MUST be lunged prior to any show, no excuses!!

After the debacle of the first show I was very much looking forward to the second show, and good old reliable Tinker.  He didn't disappoint, and did a lovely show from start to finish - I can actually and relax and enjoy the show for what it is on him!  Despite Casper's naughtiness he seems to have been a real hit with the audience - since coming back home I have received lots of photographs of him and praise for him.  You can see lots of photos from the weekend by clicking hereWe can't have done as bad a job as I initially thought, as we have already been asked to come back to Ibstock next year!  Fingers crossed Casper will behave this time...

We're off on a road trip this weekend.  Friday afternoon we will be leaving for EST Leeds Donkey Sanctuary Summer Fair on Saturday.  This was postponed from July due to bad weather, so we're hoping the sun will shine as much as it did at Ibstock!  After the shows we're heading off down to Lincolnshire for Wragby Show on Sunday - again, hoping for sunshine (and good behaviour from Casper!).  I'll let you know how we get on.

Love Rosie xx

Friday, 17 August 2012

Cheshire Game and Angling Fair

Casper enjoying his ringside seat watching the Puissance.

Tinker and Helen obviously not so impressed!

Last weekend we picked up a last minute show, which was an unexpected bonus!  However, it was not under the best circumstances unfortunately.  Jive Pony had been due to attend, but due to unforeseen circumstances Becca was unable to bring Ronan and Navvy to the event.  Becca rang me on the Wednesday afternoon to see if we could do the show on Sunday, and luckily the answer was yes!  So, after a mad couple of days getting everything ready and the lorry packed, Helen, Tinker, Casper and myself set off for Peover and the Cheshire Game and Angling Fair.

I attended this show back in 2009 with Jive Pony, and let's just say it was an interesting one!  I was hoping things would go a bit smoother this time around, but we didn't get off to a good start when we had to get towed onto the site on arrival.  However, once we'd got in position we got everything set up without any further problems.  Alex (Jive Pony's Glamourous Assistant) had come up to the show, as he was entered in their shoe making competition in the morning.  He'd obviously been planning to come up to the show anyway, but I'm not sure if it was more of a help or a hindrance to have him there whilst we were setting up!

During the night Casper got up to quite a bit of mischief.  I'd made a sign and taped it to the front of his stable which read 'Please don't feed the horses'.  Casper had not only pulled the sign off his stable but had eaten away the part that said 'Please don't', so he ended up holding a sign which just read 'Feed the horses'!  He looked like he was a little beggar horse!  On top of that he'd decided he wanted to see out of the back of the tent (having the whole front and side open obviously wasn't enough for him!) so had unstuck all the velcro from one side and had his head poking out.  He is a ridiculous creature that one!

We decided that this show was the one where Casper was going to branch out on his own and do the show without Tinker in the arena with him.  We'd been waiting all season for a show where our stables were situated ringside, so that he could see Tinker from the arena, but he wouldn't be in there with him.  This was the first time we were going to try this with him so we were all a bit nervous!  Casper has some difficult separation anxiety issues, but we've been working on them so were hoping for the best.  We had a little practise in the arena in the morning and he was really very good - probably because Tinker was still in full view!  When the time came for the show I took Casper to warm up.  This was in an area away from Tinker and out of sight of him, so I was slightly concerned that this would undo all our good work from the morning.  I needn't have worried though - he was very well behaved once again so I was very happy with him!  We were soon into the arena and the show couldn't have gone better.  Casper was lovely to vault on, he did an amazing dance and his chasing was the best he's ever done!  When we were racing around the arena he was so hot on my heels I really thought he was going to stand on me at one point!  I was so proud of him I really couldn't have asked for any more from him.

Next up was Tinker, although before we even got into the arena he had us all in stitches.  For some reason he just would not stop yawning.  He just yawned and yawned and yawned - and that was before he'd even done any work!  I don't believe he was tired as he'd slept well overnight (judging by the amount of straw in his mane and tail!) and he also spent most of the morning flat out.  It's obviously just very hard work being a Tinker! As per usual he did a lovely show, although he did have a bit of trouble in his dance.  For some reason he got stuck in Spanish Walk gear, and went stomping off in it all on his own - I couldn't get him to stop!  Other than that he was perfect so I was very pleased with him as well.  We did have a bit of an incident at one point during the show.  About halfway through a random chap came wandering out into the arena towards us.   To start with I thought he was an official coming to tell us that we had to cut the show short for some reason, but it turned out he'd just been in the beer tent a little bit too long and wanted to come and have a closer look at what was going on!  Helen was very good on the microphone asking the 'random gentleman to kindly exit the arena, as it is very distracting having invasions!' at which point an actual official came in to escort him out.  Minutes later we had another arena invasion - this time from a naughty little terrier who had managed to escape the clutches of it's very embarrassed owner!  It seems that weird incidents in the arena are a given at the Cheshire Game Fair!

The horses' tomfoolery continued throughout the day.  Whilst we were packing everything up we left them to wander about our little enclosure as we took their stables and tent down.  Next thing we know they were both climbing up the ramp into the lorry, despite the fact that it was obviously full of bits of stable, props, bases etc - definitely not ready for horses!  By this time the arena activities had finished, so we chucked the boys in there - just to get rid of them!  We were soon ready to put load up and go, but Tinker had other ideas.  He decided that he didn't want to go home just yet and wouldn't let us catch him!  However, by the time we'd ignored him for five minutes and lavished attention on Casper it was a different story, and we were soon loaded up and trucking home.

We had a lovely day at the show.  As well as Alex, Becca came up for the afternoon and bought Gemma with her too.  Everyone was very helpful - Becca was taking photos and collecting music sheets for us, Gemma was helping groom the horses and washing them down after each show, and Alex helped set up the arena with Helen and mended a dangly bit on the lorry - it's nice to have a good big team!  We'll be back to normal for our next show, Ibstock Country Fair, with Helen, Jess and myself.  I'll let you know how we get on but in the meantime click here to see some photos from Cheshire Game Fair.

Love Rosie xx

Saturday, 4 August 2012

July cancellations and what I did instead!

July has unfortunately been the most disheartening month I have had in a long time.  It was due to be our busiest month, and I was really looking forward to getting the show out and about.  However, it was not to be as the great British weather conspired against us and every single show cancelled.  I totally understand why the decision to cancel each show was made, and I also know it is one that organisers' never want to have to make, but it did leave us at a bit of a loose end!  We never stand still for long though, and July turned out to be quite busy after all!

Sunday 8th should have seen us at EST Leeds Summer Fair.  On learning of the cancellation however I decided to go back home (Oxfordshire) for the weekend.  Whilst home that weekend I managed to view two horseboxes (we are desperately in need of a new lorry - I don't want a repeat of what happened on the motorway on our way to Abinger Medieval Fair!), but unfortunately neither of them quite fitted the bill.  It was the first time I had been home since about January, so it was lovely to catch up with friends and family.  To top it off EST managed to rearrange their Summer Fair to Saturday 1st September, when we will be attending and hoping for some sunshine!

The following weekend we should have been up in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, for their Garden and Country Festival.  This was an outright cancellation unfortunately with no rearrangement.  It was going to be a two day show which we were really looking forward to - it's always nice to get properly settled in somewhere for a few days!  As I suddenly had another free weekend I rang Becca (Jive Pony) to see what she was up to.  They had a show down in Essex, the Tendring Hundred Show, and were due to perform their duo show.  

A little story here now... I was part of Jive Pony for six years before moving up to Yorkshire in October 2011 and setting up Galloping Acrobatics.  Throughout the 2011 season Becca and I trained up Amy to replace me on the team when I left.  Amy is an ex-vaulter who is now an aerialist by trade (she performs on the aerial  hoop, silks and corde lisse) and was offered the amazing job of performing at the Olympics opening ceremony (you may have seen her - she was one of the Mary Poppins'!).  Unfortunately this was slap bang in the middle of the show season, but as it was too good an opportunity to pass up, Becca asked me to cover a few shows with her.  One of these was the Tendring Hundred Show in Essex.  However, we were booked to be in Kirkcudbright so I was unable to help.  Becca then got in touch with Lucy (the current English vaulting champion) to see if she'd learn the show and perform at Tendring.  Lucy learnt all the show very quickly, but having never worked on the microphone before found the commentary quite difficult.  This is the point at which I rang Becca to say my show had been cancelled, and before I knew it I found myself driving back down south again to go on a Jive Pony show as their commentator!

It was like I'd never been away.  Having spent so long learning my new lines for Galloping Acrobatics (and trying not to revert to Jive Pony scripts which seem ingrained in my head) I had to forget all my words and reinstate the old ones!  It was lovely commentating for a show without having to work a horse at the same time - and it's definitely easier to talk without huffing and puffing from having just finished vaulting!  The two shows went really well, despite difficult ground conditions, and we didn't even get rained on - always a bonus!  It was wet though, the stables were a virtual quagmire which meant stealing some extra straw bales from around the arena in an attempt to bed them down better.  We decided it didn't really matter though as the bales were so wet nobody was sitting on them anyway!  Having dried off and packed down it was back to Becca's then straight back up to Yorkshire for me - I covered some miles that day!

The weekend after was scheduled to be the CLA Game Fair - one of my most favourite shows.  We have done the CLA every year, and always thoroughly enjoy it.  Last year we had four horses (Tinker, Casper, Ronan and Navvy) and performed three shows per day, but that really was too much and this year Becca had decided to cut down.  We were due to do just two solo shows per day - one as Jive Pony with Becca vaulting on Navvy and me commentating, and one as Galloping Acrobatics with me vaulting on Casper and Helen commentating.  We were all so looking forward to it, and were devastated when the news came through that they'd had to cancel.  So... What to do instead?  Go to the circus of course!

We'd been trying to all get together to go to Giffords Circus since early May when they started touring, but it had proved impossible so far.  All of a sudden we found we all had a free weekend so tickets were arranged and off we all went!  There was quite a few of us and it really was a bit like an old school Jive Pony reunion.  Aside from myself and Becca, there was Tim (whom none of us have seen since last September as he has hung up his clown shoes so hasn't been out this season) and Alex, Gemma (who we used to teach and is now clowning) and Mark (who we met at Blakesley Show in 2010 and built a lovely school for us to train in at Becca's - I really miss it!).  To top it all of my Mum came too which was lovely!

The show was fantastic, I absolutely loved it.  I urge anyone and everyone who lives in and around the Cotswolds to go and see it - more than once!  I'll hopefully be going back later in the season with Ben - if we can find the time...

That was on the Saturday and on the Sunday I had a couple more lorries to go and look at.  Once again they weren't quite what I was after, but I ended up right next to Longleat Safari Park, where Jimmy (a very good friend of Ben's) runs the 'Hunter's of the Sky' show.  I managed to talk my way in to free admission to the park and set about tracking Jimmy and his show down.  My timing was perfect, and I had a really good seat throughout the display.  It's always nice to see other birds flying, I get so used to all the ones at home that I forget how much fun it is to sit in an audience and watch a show where you don't know what's going to happen next.  At one point Jimmy had four vultures and seven kites flying all at once - I didn't know where to look!

It was a long drive back to Yorkshire from Longleat, but I did have a stop at Warwick Castle to pick up some eagle feathers.  The break in the journey was just what I needed, as by the time I got home I'd driven over five hundred miles since the morning!

The next weekend and there were no shows booked in, so no cancellations!  Early in the week though I had a call from Laura at the Devil's Horsemen asking if I was available at the weekend and would I like to work.  Never one to turn a show down I found myself on board their lorry (which I met at Carlisle so didn't have to drive down south again!) and headed up to Glamis Castle for their two day Countryside Festival.  We were going to perform one jousting show and one equestrian show on each day.  I was really looking forward to the equestrian show, as I would be working the standing saddle on Cuthbert (as I did at HOYS back in 2009) before trick riding on him too.  You can see a little bit of one of the shows in the video below.

All the shows over the two days went really well, and I really enjoyed myself.  It's so nice to be on a show where you have no responsibility!  Trick riding is similar but different to vaulting, like the difference between cross country and show jumping, and it's always nice to do something a bit different for a change.  Cuthbert was brilliant as usual, although much faster than either of my two - it always takes me a couple of runs to get used to the speed!  

I also caught up with a good friend of Ben's at the show, Mark Wylie, who does the brilliant Drakes of Hazard dog and duck show - and whose sister make delicious shortbread!  One of my favourite things about the shows is catching up with different people at each event, and why I was so disappointed about all the cancellations.  However, as you can see I kept very busy and am now looking forward to our next show, Ibstock Country Fair on Sunday 19th August - lets just hope it doesn't have to cancel!  I'll let you know how we get on, but in the meantime you can see some photos from the past month here.

Love Rosie xx